Ohioans Negative on Economy, Still Like Strickland and Give Pre-President Election Advantage to Democrats, Poll Shows

OhioNews Bureau

ONB COLUMBUS: The Spring 2008 Akron Buckeye Poll released Wednesday covered an assessment of Ohio, government and politics and provided insight on baseline information for the 2008 general election in Ohio.

Elected officials, both state and national, should take note of its findings. Ohioans, who have seen jobs leave by the hundreds of thousands and who are being pressured by rising fuel and food prices while their home values are declining and the purchasing power of their paychecks are shrinking, are rightfully concerned about their economy and whether their elected leaders are able to pull the state out of its current economic nose dive.

While Ohioans showed by a slim majority they are worried about the state’s economy, they think Democratic Governor Ted Strickland is doing an “excellent or good” job. Coveted by presidential candidates who think winning the Buckeye State's 20 Electoral College votes will guarantee them the keys to the White House, Ohioans surveyed say the Democratic Party has an advantage over the Republican Party before the start of the general election campaign.


Based on the report today in the The (Toledo) Blade about the prospect that worsening income tax collections could further harm Ohio’s already sour budget picture, it’s not surprising that those polled by the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at The University of Akron cited economic issues as their top priority this year.

Of the 1,507 random sample survey respondents contacted by telephone between January 10 and March 8, slightly less than half (47.5%) said economic issues, like jobs and prices, will be very important to their 2008 presidential vote. Their concern for the economy was followed by foreign policy issues, like the Iraq war and terrorism (24.8%), domestic issues, like public service and taxes (16.8%) and social issues, like abortion and same-sex marriage (10.9%).

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who fought a tough primary battle in the Buckeye State on March 4th, with Clinton winning the state despite a hard charge from Obama in the final week of the contest, should note that Ohioans see distinct differences between their party and that of Sen. John McCain, the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.


Keeping in tune with their concern for the economy, Ohioans favor Democrats over Republicans on economic issues (65.1 to 31.3%) and domestic issues (58.5 to 38.2%), but are not as giving when it comes to foreign policy (47.8 to 46%) and social issues (48.5 to 44.6%).

You would think that with Ohio being among the top states in lives lost in the war in Iraq (165), Ohioans would be very opposed to the war, but that is not the case. Ohioans are split on the war with 50.8% favoring the withdrawal of troops as soon as possible and 49.2% believing deployed troops should be kept their until the situation is stabilized. On the social wedge issue of abortion, 52% favor legal abortions in most cases while 48% favor restricting the practice.

As Ohio lives up to its history of being a make or break state to win the White House, Ohioans, who elected Republicans to rule all statewide offices and the legislature for 16 years before they installed Democrats in four of the top five statewide offices in 2006, now favor a generic Democrat of a Republican in the fall presidential elections by a wide majority. Notwithstanding the win by Hillary Clinton in the Ohio primary by several hundred thousand votes, Ohioans, the poll shows, still see a close division between the two Democratic campaigns.


At the state level, 52.3% reported Ohio was generally on the “wrong track” while a far larger majority (74.4%) said the Oho economy was on the “wrong track.” Being a generally conservative state, both in fiscal and social terms, 55.2% said the state’s moral climate was on the “wrong track” as well.

When asked to express their confidence that state government would successfully address major problems, Ohioans said they have more confidence in their elected officials today than they did in 2005, when Republican scandals broke out at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and triggered the string of events that lead to powerful Republicans like Tom Noe, of Coingate fame, and Congressman Bob Ney, of Jack Abramoff fame, being convicted of various crimes and being carted off to jail.


For Strickland, his humble, self-effacing charm and forthrightness about the difficulties that face the state are still winning the majority of hearts in Ohio. Although he has fallen from a one-time high rating of about 61% last year, his first year on the job, 53.5% of Ohioans still rate his job performance as “excellent or good.”


But they were less than generous with the performance of the Supreme Court of Ohio, whose seven members are all Republicans, and the state legislature, which is still controlled by Republicans, although their margin in the House is slim and could be lost this fall if Ohioans turnout in the numbers forecasted to vote for a Democratic president and vote for Statehouse Democrats in the process.


With voting in Ohio being such a hot topic this year and in years past, Ohioans, by more than one-half, now have a great deal of confidence in their vote for president being fairly counted, a figure, the report says, that is largely unchanged from 2006, when the secretary of state was a Republican and voters were using touch-screen machines in a majority of Ohio counties.

John Michael Spinelli is a former Ohio Statehouse government and political reporter and business columnist. He now serves as the OhioNews Bureau Chief for ePluribus Media Journal. Find ONB archives here.

If readers have a news tip or story idea about Ohio politics or government, contact the OhioNews Bureau at: ohionews@epluribusmedia.org

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